United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz had customer service very much on his mind as he sent out his final memo of 2018 to the 90,000-plus employees who work for the Chicago-based carrier.
Calling 2018 a “meaningful success,” Munoz said United’s tens of thousands of employees were primarily responsible for that success.
Munoz no doubt breathed a sigh of relief as the year 2018 drew to a close. The carrier did not have to grapple with another infamous event like the man-dragged-from-plane incident in 2017 that made that such a horrible year for the carrier in so many ways.
Rather, in his note Munoz was able to focus on far more positive achievements, including new mainline and domestic routes, strong operational performance
despite tough weather challenges, and new digital tools to help United’s front-line employees deliver on the core4 program to become a more caring and efficient airline.
But Munoz also knows that United will have to work hard to ensure the carrier’s operational performance keeps improving. Some of United’s biggest hubs are located where weather can quickly make for extraordinarily challenging operations. That is the case most notably at Newark Liberty International Airport, where United Airlines Reservations has both a huge domestic and international hub.
At the moment, Munoz is bullish about what 2019 will bring for United: “Our ambition is nothing short of setting a new standard for what customer service can attain. Quite simply getting it right will mean making United the leader in our industry.”
Munoz, however, is facing some strong push back right now from one of his key front line employee groups, more than 25,000 flight attendants, who are not keen on United’s plan to cut one flight attendant from the Polaris international business class cabin starting Feb. 1.
United flight attendants staged a big informational rally earlier this month at key airports around the world to protest the move. Flight attendants believe the cabin crew cut could impact the quality of service on board. Munoz and his top management are insistent the cut won’t affect either service or safety on international flights.
In one of his most ambitious moves for 2019 and beyond, Munoz plans to bring all FAs to Chicago for a “backstage” event to help them better understand the company’s long-term strategic game plan and, he hopes, get them on board with it.
Still, this is the airline industry, which, as Munoz knows well, can be a hugely volatile and unpredictable business
But as 2019 dawns, Munoz sought to fire up his troops: “To be sure the demands and challenges will be great, and so will the rewards. Together we will be the authors of our own success story, and the outcome depends only upon our own choice and willingness to seize the opportunities that await us in the coming year.”